Four New Poems from Elisha Porat

All translated from the Hebrew by Cindy Eisner

At the Field Hospital

Those who were born, like me, in that fateful year
spend their lives looking for their fellow travelers:
A baby transported on the floor of
an armored bus, and a young mother
shielding it with her body;
a traveler who has traversed his life
but left his heart behind
quivering at the bus depot.
Let me remind you of something:
we were but a year old then
when the fate of the world was decided in
a bloodbath: Bathe, Scream, Bleed.
Cryptic words, evil, inscribed
on an ancient amulet.

Among the Photographs

On Memorial Day I wander
among the photographs: the taut black
ribbons entwined with flowers,
candles flickering under the images.
From within the white strips of writing,
I watch as their fingerprints
emerge, their laughter,
their secret whisperings bursting out at me.
How very different things could have been
with them, among them, in the heat of their breath,
and not so soft and silent,
like now, without them.

The Young Students

“The young
dead soldiers do not speak.

Nevertheless, they are heard
in the still
houses…”

– Archibald MacLeish

On Memorial Day I enter the classroom.
“The young dead soldiers …”
I read to the young students,
my voice echoing in the stillness of the room.
They hang their eyes on my lips,
and a familiar fear strikes me:
I am the one who knows,
I am the one who remembers,
I bite my lips and cry.

And so I flee the classroom.
The eyes of the young students
boring through the stillness of my silent brain.
Speak to me, children.
How very necessary it is now
that your voices be heard.?

The Screeching of the Jackdaws

The screeching of the jackdaws now
in the winter, gliding blackness
like the ghosts of the young men,
whose faces also rise
to the treetops. Perched on
the branches, the jackdaws screech
as if hunted, suddenly
quarrelsome as if sensing
the young men, the warmth of their breath.
Entangled in the night
air, plunging finally:
wings folded back, empty
throated. Resting as if betrayed,
silent without protest.
Tomorrow they will take off and fly
away, they will not stay.

***

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